Part One- Where I am, where we Began

What does it Feel Like?

If you’ve never been betrayed, count yourself lucky. But those unfortunates that have experienced it and other misfortunes such as molestation, abuse and rape..betrayal has been named as the worst, most damaging of these.I know that I preferred physical abuse to the emotional abuse of my husband having an affair. Affairs actually.

The discovery is like the worst hit in the gut you ever receive. Your heart shrivels and yet seems too big for your chest, swelled with pain. Your mind reels. Your innocence is shattered and you long to tear your beating heart from your chest. Surely that would be less painful than what you are feeling now.

I wanted the feel of a hot knife cutting into me to relieve the pain. I wanted razors at my wrists to explode the burning blood from my body. I wished my tears were poison burning me inside and out. I died a thousand different deaths and cursed myself for being too scared to actually make them reality.

Someone you loved, who you thought loved you, has violated your vows and in doing so has violated you. You feel emotionally raped. Depending on the specifics of the affair that coincide with your marriage, you may feel physically violated too.

In the aftermath, I would try to sleep, only to be haunted by snippets of dreams, all about betrayal. Only to wake up every half hour or so, looking into the blackness of night and realizing that I was living my nightmare.

A betrayed spouse often cannot stomach food. I was no exception. In the first month after my discovery, I lost twenty-five pounds. In total over the next three and a half months, I lost all the weight I had gained with two babies and nearly a decade of depression. Nearly 65 pounds later, I was back to pre-baby weight. Indeed pre-affair weight. Yes, this has happened more than once.

Why am I still with him you ask? I ask myself the same questions. At the core of it, our children. Even they would not be enough though had I not seen him change before and have hope that his change now is permanent.

The affair may be over, but the pain is still here. I may be too, but I know- stay or leave, my heart is still broken.

In the Beginning…

I had intended to join my father’s branch of the military when I graduated. According to my parents, I did not have grades high enough to bother with college and no guidance counselor bothered to tell me otherwise. I was supposed to pay for everything on my own, and at $2 an hour babysitting, I could not afford the college application fees. I had saved up enough for the SATs but that’s as far as it went. So I planned on taking my 3.6 and 1200 score to the Air Force.Fortunately a family member saw potential and told me she’d pay for my first year in college as a graduation present. Too late to apply to the school I wanted, I applied for late admission to the school my best friend attended. Meanwhile, I went to the local community college and worked closing at a fast food joint. My stepmom still ruled, so she decided what classes I would take and that I would be out of the house from 8am until 5pm. Even if I had dragged my grease sodden ass home at 3am from work.

When my friend invited me for a football game when I actually had time off, I was thrilled. Not that I liked football, but it was an escape. While we were at the dining hall before the game, we met two friends of hers. The one in uniform struck me. Cocoa skin, sensual lips, dark teasing eyes…and when we left, they followed us even though he was supposed to be on his way to drill nearly two hours away.

When I got home, my friend, S.D., told me he was asking after me. And kept asking when I would be back. At home, my stepmom was laying down the law. No weekend visits when I went away to college. I would have to get my wall-flower ass out and have a social life. I fully intended to, starting with the guy behind those teasing eyes.

I started the spring quarter that January. I went from my parents having total control over my community college classes to them not even bothering at all. They barely stopped the car to drop my stuff off, or so it felt. The first weekend, my friend visited my parents to pick some stuff up (remember, I had to be invited) and my stepmother, usually a procrastinator, had packed all my stuff into the closet of my room. Taken out the carpet I had been begging for years to remove, painted the walls and dyed my white priscilla curtains that I had earned on my own. I knew where I belonged.

That first week we ate dinner at the dining hall with a group of S.D.’s friends. I had a feisty debate with Mr. Dark Eyes and he acted like I annoyed him. No big deal, because during my time away he had acquired a girlfriend. Within the first two weeks though, he had walked in on her fucking a good friend of his doggystyle in the closet. That weekend he spent time pouting and listening to sappy songs. I tried to be there as a friend, he turned to me but I refused any involvement. If he cared for someone else, I was staying back. Now he claims it was all an act to get me close. He had never really cared for her, just gone out with her because she was persistent. Supposedly he was relieved for a reason to break it off with her.

One night we were all supposed to meet for the free campus movie. He never showed. After the movie, S.D. and I were getting ready to go to the clubs, for what would be my first time. P. , Mr. Dark Eyes, called. He asked me to come talk to him. I went to his room and he was doing the same mopey song routine. I told him I would hang out with him until S.D. came to get me, but I needed to go out and have fun. That’s when he told me he had feelings for me. S.D. and I ended up hanging out with P. and his roommate T. Years later, I learned S.D. and T. had been fuck buddies the previous semester. They wanted to date but didn’t know how to get past the FB stage they had started with. Of course S.D. never told me, she knew I wouldn’t approve of her cheating on her high school boyfriend. Either be faithful or cut him free I always believed.

After a night of talking and music, P. asked for us to cuddle. We had been hanging out for not quite a month at this point. I climbed up into his loft and we held each other. He began to kiss me. I pulled away, embarrassed. I told him I had never kissed anyone before. I had been too shy up until then. “Don’t worry,” P. said, “I’ll teach you.” We kissed into the dark night, he began touching me, reaching under my bra. Then he led my hand down to his penis, whispering to me how to make a guy feel good with my hand. I didn’t know how to say no and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

After that, we were considered a couple, even though P. refused the term boyfriend. Our first date at the $1.50 movies ended with him pulling me into the aisle to slow dance to the song during the end credits while he crooned the lyrics to me. I still have the Valentine’s card he gave me, making it clear he was ‘in like’ with me. Soon after, our gang went on a trip to the beach. We spent time walking by the starlit waves, holding hands, making out in the winter cold by the shore.

We played in the dunes, sliding down huge sandy hills with the sunlight on our faces. It was a perfect weekend for me.

When we got back, P. seemed distant. That first day back, I came upon him at the snack center with another girl. I was confused. But I couldn’t say he led me on. He had never claimed exclusivity. A few nights later he called, telling me, “We have to talk.” Expecting the quick breakup, I entered the cold late February evening in nothing but jeans and my favorite sweatshirt. P. wore his full length triple fat (phat?) goose down coat. He asked to walk to the town commons, three blocks away. I don’t remember the whole conversation. Just trying to shield myself from the cold and the pain that I knew was coming.

Instead, in a round about way, he told me that since the beach, his feelings had become clear to him. He had resisted it, but he loved me. Yes, 18yo romance at it’s best. I couldn’t say the same back, I could barely speak at that point.

I found out later that he had visited the other girl’s dorm with T. and both of them had kissed her.

Had I not been love-starved from my parents, had I not been a starry eyed innocent waiting for ‘the one’ I might have noticed that night how self-absorbed P. was. Instead, as I shivered in the cold, I was just happy that “We have to talk” for once meant something good.

Ready to be Committed

At the end of the semester, we had a choice, go our separate ways or agree to be there for each other. P. was going to go to boot camp for thirteen weeks. My family was moving across country. I had a choice, stay or go. For years P. believed I made the choice to stay because of him. The truth was, I liked college. If I moved, I would be considered out of state for at least a year. I would have to start the enrollment process all over again. And I would still have to live on my own…in a state I had only visited previously. So I stayed to stay in college.I worked the summer at a local factory. Night shift. Twelve hours a day. Six days a week. I wrote P. every day, counting down the time until he was out of boot camp. I saved up enough to pay for my first semester back in college until financial aid kicked in.

The letters P. sent me were often addressed to “Mrs. B. B.” using his last name. Since the first hesitant I Love You he had insisted on becoming engaged before he left. I refused, but agreed to Promise rings. He actually got one for himself also. They looked just like wedding bands, but silver.

Our reunion at graduation was joyous, one of my favorite pictures ever was taken then, we seemed to be melded into each other.

There were a few weeks until we were back in school and attached at the hip again. By the end of the school year, we decided to move in together. We found a cheap apartment and began to acquire things like a couch, kitchen supplies and a bed.

When time came to move, I ended up moving everything from both of our dorm rooms on my own. P. left to help a friend with something. It was supposed to be a couple of hours, he was gone all day. I was pissed at having to do it all myself and maybe this should have clued me in.

That summer, I was the only one working. We barely eked by. I tried to reign in the spending, but if there was money, it ended up being spent. I stopped cleaning up, waiting to see how long it would be before he pitched in. He had learned well from his mom. She was the single mom of an only child. She would come home from a full day at work and clean up after P. That seems to be what he expected from me. I had been expected to clean up after myself since I could remember. I had been looking forward to a partner. It didn’t happen. A stupid issue that shows how lacking communication was between us.

Those Wedding Bell Blues

P. and I were living together for less than a year when we decided it was time to get married. People asked why we didn’t wait until we graduated, had our diplomas in hand? We replied- what did one pieces of paper (the diploma) have to do with another (the marriage license)? Perhaps those well meaning people should have recommended some pre-marital counseling or even a delay of just another year. Although, at 20 years, we knew everything so any advice would have likely been ignored anyhow. After all, that had been the plan since the first months of dating, and we were nearing two years. We chose the Friday after our dating anniversary, that fell on a Monday that year.We had so little money, we decided to just do a Justice of the Peace wedding. We thought it was the marriage that mattered, not the wedding. So we told our families. My dad wanted to fly cross country, but I told him not to bother for a simple JoP ceremony, we’d renew our vows in a few years when we graduated and had money. P.’s dad railed, accusing me of marrying him for his money. Huh? I was supporting the both of us working in a fabric store while going to school full time! P.’s mom decided on the day of the wedding not to come because it was raining and she didn’t want to drive the two hours in the rain. We did have witnesses, some people who decided it was worth their time. P.’s uncle and his wife braved the drive, our best friends from college (a couple we are still friends with), and our neighbor and her boyfriend.

I wore a dress the neighbor gave me, it was a simple white cotton with some seed beading on the bodice. That was something borrowed and old. From the fabric store I got discounted lace and blue ribbon and wove them together, trimming the skirt. That was something new and blue. P. wore his USMC dress blues.

We drove to the JoP, we had tried to make an appointment but we were told to just come in. There was someone before us. Some guy in cuffs, sitting with his head bowed. I noted he had some white crusty stuff in his hair and wondered where it came from. The JoP came out and asked who was next. They indicated the cuffed man. Looking at him, then us, the JoP said, “You’re not going anywhere, let’s let this nice couple in.”

Once we shuffled into his small office, the JoP had P. and I stand together and hold hands while we repeated the vows after him. I had eyes only for P. I have no idea what everyone else was doing, where they were standing. P.’s uncle was supposed to take pictures with my camera, but didn’t know how to use it. Only one came out, of P.’s chest. So all I have are the memories of that day. I remember my hands shaking as I put the ring on P.’s finger. When it stuck a little at the knuckle, I fretted that it was a bad omen.

Vows said, kisses exchanged, the JoP pronounced us married. He declared, “This is a marriage that is going to last. Never have I had such a nice young couple that took the time to dress up. It shows you value this marriage.” Many times over the years I have felt an irrational obligation to live up to those words.

P.’s uncle insisted on taking us all out to eat. At a place with actual table cloths. We went out to a nice Chinese restaurant we had never been to before. When we returned to our apartment, P.’s uncle and wife left us with a large family Bible and money to get started. Our friends stayed for a bit, having cake and toasting us. They left and we had our first night together. P. had been calling me Mrs. P. B. from early on, but now it was reality.

To me, the most special moment of that day was that night, in the dark. At one point there was an electrical current that flowed though me. It honestly felt like God’s blessing. Like we were finally on the right path. When I mentioned it to P., it turns out he had felt the same surge.

And so began our married life. We had the weekend, then returned to school on Monday and I returned to work. Reality began.

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